Those of us living in Southern Alberta, Canada, know that if we want snow, Lake Louise is the place to go! Even when the prairies are dry, bleak, and completely brown, it is always a winter wonderland with many activities at Lake Louise.
Living in Calgary, I haven’t seen much snow yet this winter. I see the photos coming in from Lake Louise, though, and the snow is sitting on the trees like giant mushroom caps. Trails are groomed and tracked for skiing or snowshoeing. Also, the lake is already cleared for ice-skating (with a giant ice castle built on it!)
I love magical Lake Louise and hope you will add it to your winter bucket list if you haven’t been fortunate enough to visit. So, without further ado, here are my top 6 favorite winter activities in Lake Louise.
1. Go snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, or fat biking on the village trails
Stop in at the Visitor Centre in the village for a trail map of the area. During the winter season, the Moraine Lake Road is closed to vehicles, and it converts to a 7-mile long trail (one way) for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or fat biking. But, if you make it to the end of the official trail, you’ll be rewarded with gorgeous views of the lake.
For a snowshoe specific trail, I recommend trying the Louise Creek Trail. This trail connects the Alpine Centre in Lake Louise, the Village, and the Upper Lake in a 3.5-mile-long trip one way. Here, hike up to the lake with your ice skates, and grab a coffee in the Chateau. Then enjoy a beautiful leisurely hike back down to the Alpine Centre.
To see views of Louise Falls, I recommend snowshoers and skiers walk/ski across Lake Louise to the far end.
The Bow River Loop is another great option for skiing from the Alpine Centre. This 4-mile long loop starts and ends at the Village. You can hop on the trail right from the hostel.
Finally, the Visitor Centre can recommend many other trails for whichever sport you prefer to try. Or you can spend a few days here and try them all!
2. Spend a day at the Lake Louise Ski Resort
My son and I enjoyed the scenic half-day snowshoe tour at the resort, which includes a 30-minute return gondola ride. This tour is an excellent activity for those who do not ski but want to ride the gondola. The tour explores the ridgetop above, just outside the ski area. Then, you can enjoy magnificent views from the top of the resort.
3. Go ice skating on Lake Louise
Visitors can try ice-skating on the few rinks that are always cleared off on the lake and play on mountains of snow around the lake. Lake Louise is in one of the most beautiful locations in the Canadian Rockies and is beside an ice castle that is usually built in-time for Christmas. The Chateau beside the lake provides skates for rent.
You can also attend the Ice Magic Festival, held each January. The festival has many family-friendly activities and features an ice carving competition as the main highlight. The completed ice sculptures, along with the ice castle, can be viewed throughout the winter until they melt in spring.
If you’re visiting with children, make sure you also bring sleds with you to enjoy on the hill located beside the Chateau. My son had a fabulous time skating, sledding, and playing on gigantic mountains of snow when we were at Lake Louise last winter.
4. Go dog sledding with Kingmit Dog Sled Tours
Kingmit Dog Sled Tours is the only professional dog sledding company in Banff National Park. Sign up for a tour and enjoy flying along the Great Divide Trail in a cozy sled pulled by a beautiful team of Alaskan Huskies. A trained musher guides each sled, but you can try driving it together with your guide on the return journey.
Dogsledding is a traditional means of travel in the Canadian Rockies, and is a one-of-a-kind winter activity to try when visiting Lake Louise.
5. Take an overnight backcountry adventure into Skoki Lodge
Sign up for a guided backcountry snowshoe or ski trip into Skoki Lodge for 1-3 nights, all meals included.
The journey begins at the Lake Louise Ski Resort with a ride up the gondola. Then, travel down a chairlift to Temple Lodge on the backside of the resort. From here, you’ll hike or ski 7 miles into the lodge over two alpine passes and across scenic Ptarmigan Lake.
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6. Take a day tour to explore Banff National Park
Visitors spending several days at Lake Louise will want to go exploring a bit beyond the village and the lake.
South of Lake Louise
I recommend taking a day trip to the Town of Banff, a 40-minute drive away. Here you can visit the hot springs or take a ride on the Banff Gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain.
Moreover, you can go for a short drive out to Lake Minnewanka, Banff’s longest lake.
North of Lake Louise
Going the other direction from Lake Louise, I recommend driving the scenic Icefields Parkway, one of the most beautiful highways in Canada. The Parkway heads towards the Columbia Icefields and Jasper National Park (great for snowshoeing).
Also, make sure you stop at Bow Summit for a short 30-minute hike to the viewpoint overlooking Peyto Lake. The lake is one of the most photographed lakes in the Canadian Rockies and is a 30-minute drive from Lake Louise to Bow Summit. Please note that the Peyto viewpoint is closed for the winter of 2020 since they are rebuilding the viewpoint platform. Find updates on construction through the Parks Canada website.
Typically though, reaching the Peyto Lake viewpoint is easy with a pair of snowshoes or cross-country skis. You will follow a road (closed to vehicles in winter) up to the summer tour bus parking lot. From there, it is a 5-minute walk to the viewing platform. There is avalanche danger beyond the platform. So, please return the same way and don’t go exploring too far afield.
For more information on touring Banff National Park or the Icefields Parkway, stop in at the Lake Louise Visitor Centre for maps, detailed brochures, and suggestions for where to safely hike in winter without avalanche danger.
Affordable Accommodations at Lake Louise
While there is no shortage of luxury hotels and resorts at or near Lake Louise, we prefer to stay at the Lake Louise Alpine Centre. The Alpine Centre is an upscale version of a youth hostel, with a communal kitchen and fireside lounge area. There is also a restaurant on-site for those wanting the occasional break from cooking.
Book a private room at the Alpine Centre if you want a bit more privacy for your family or group. There are several options for rooms, and some come with a private bathroom.
Ski or snowshoe right out the door of the Alpine Centre, where you’ll find trails leading up to the lake and along the scenic Bow River. You’ll be a short walk from the Village Centre, where you’ll find rentals for any sport you wish to pursue during your stay. Also, you can grab a free shuttle to the nearby ski hill when you’re in the village.
So, what’s your favorite activity in Lake Louise? Let us know in the comments below!
This article was originally published on January 16, 2019, and updated on November 8, 2020, with additional information.
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